Foreign migrants working in Malaysian factories are highly vulnerable to exploitation. Transparentem has found that migrants from across Asia often pay recruitment fees in both their home countries and Malaysia to secure low-paying jobs. These fees can lead to paralyzing debt burdens for the workers. In addition to recruitment fees, migrant workers in Malaysia face a host of other challenges, including deceptive recruitment, poor living conditions, and excessive overtime.

Transparentem has documented the plight of these migrant workers in two investigations since 2016. We used our findings to urge manufacturers and buyers to remediate exploitative working conditions and provide material relief to the vulnerable populations harmed by them. To date, suppliers have returned 1,600 previously withheld passports; and have distributed or committed nearly $3 million (with some buyers contributing) to reimburse excessive recruitment fees.

Our work in Malaysia also spurred the creation of an industry-wide initiative to improve worker recruitment practices: the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and Fair Labor Association (FLA) Apparel & Footwear Industry Commitment to Responsible Recruitment. The initiative requires signatories to incorporate into their social compliance standards language that ensures no worker pays for their job; that workers retain control of identity documents and have freedom of movement; and that workers are accurately told the basic terms of employment before leaving home.

Our Work in Malaysia

Our Work in Malaysia

Shepard Sherbell / Corbis Historical / Getty Images

Transparentem’s Malaysia Work in the News

Quiet approach allows US NGO to improve lives of workers in Malaysian factories
Free Malaysia Today
22 June 2019
A New York-based non-profit organisation that investigates labour and environmental abuses has helped Malaysian factories...
NGO’s softly-softly tactics tackle labor abuses at Malaysia factories
The Guardian
22 June 2019
The 18-month investigation unearthed serious abuses at five apparel factories in Malaysia – hundreds of...
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